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LaRoche free to talk to other clubs Saturday

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LaRoche free to talk to other clubs Saturday

When Miguel Cabrera took a Sergio Romo fastball down the heart of the strike zone late last night, the 2012 Major League Baseball season came to an end. And the Hot Stove League immediately commenced.

While the Giants are busy celebrating and the Tigers are busy moping, everyone else around the sport is preparing for the official start of the offseason, with some important decisions that will need to be made right off the bat.

All eligible players become free agents this morning, a group that will include Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, right-hander Edwin Jackson, left-handers Sean Burnett, Michael Gonzalez and Zach Duke and utilityman Mark DeRosa.

Though they'll technically be free agents right away, those players won't have the right to negotiate with other clubs until five full days have passed. Thus, the Nationals have until Saturday morning to exclusively negotiate with their free agents.

That creates a potentially limited window of opportunity to re-sign key players, most notably LaRoche. The 32-year-old first baseman (who will decline the $10 million mutual option on his contract) has already been in discussions with the Nationals since season's end and there is hope on both sides of a multi-year deal.

Though there will be incentive on the Nationals' part to strike an agreement this week, LaRoche may be tempted to test the market and see how other offers compare, though he can still re-sign with Washington after Saturday.

The Nationals aren't expected to make a serious push to re-sign Jackson, who will be seeking a multi-year deal after going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA this season.

The situation with Burnett could be more complicated. There's a $3.5 million mutual option for 2013, but the left-hander is expected to decline it and seek a multi-year deal. The Nationals could be reluctant to offer a long-term commitment to the 30-year-old, who had surgery after the season to remove a bone chip in his elbow.

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VIDEO: Nats pull off first ever 3-3-5 triple play

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MLB.com

VIDEO: Nats pull off first ever 3-3-5 triple play

It's not often you see something in a baseball game that has never happened before, as the sport has been played for over 100 years.

On Friday night, however, the Nationals accomplished something that has never been done before.

In the eighth inning of their win over the Giants, the Nats pulled off a 3-3-5 triple play. 

It looked routine, but it was something that no baseball player has ever pulled off before:

That's just crazy.

[RELATED: Nats place C Jose Lobaton on disabled list]

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Triple play helps Nationals hold off Giants 4-1

Triple play helps Nationals hold off Giants 4-1

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Washington Nationals made history by turning the first 3-3-5 triple play ever in the major leagues then watched as third baseman Anthony Rendon tossed the ball from the milestone moment into the crowd at AT&T Park.

Getting a second straight win over the Giants and securing their hold on the second-best record in baseball was far more important than the souvenir to manager Dusty Baker and his ballclub.

Washington turned the first triple play in its 12-season history, holding on in the eighth inning to help preserve a strong outing by Max Scherzer and beat San Francisco 4-1 on Friday night.

"Crazy," Zimmerman said. "Couldn't have happened at a better time for us. Great job by Sammy (Solis) coming in and getting two pitches and three outs."

The Giants loaded the bases in the eighth with two walks sandwiched around a single. Brandon Crawford then lined an 0-1 pitch from Sammy Solis to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who had entered the game moments earlier as a part of a double switch.

Zimmerman quickly stepped on first base for the second out then threw to third baseman Anthony Rendon to catch Denard Span to complete the triple play.

"Once I caught it I knew I had the double play," said Zimmerman, who was moved a few steps back before Crawford swung. "Then Tony was jumping up and down with a smile on his face so I just tossed the ball over to him. Got out of a jam just like that."

It was the first 3-3-5 triple play in history, according to Sabr.org, and alos the first Baker has ever seen as a player or manager.

"There was one other one but I went to the bathroom and missed it," Baker said.

Scherzer (11-6) had lost four of his five career starts against the Giants and a no-decision in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series before holding San Francisco to one run over seven innings.

The four-time All-Star retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts and two walks.

Over his last six starts Scherzer has allowed just five earned runs in 41 1/3 innings.

"Once we got that lead he knows how to smell the finish line," Baker said. "Max was awesome."

Four relievers combined to retire eight batters.

Four players had two hits apiece for the Giants. San Francisco fell to 2-11 since the All-Star break.

San Francisco put two runners on base in the ninth but Shawn Kelly struck out Eduardo Nunez -- making his Giants debut -- for his sixth save.

"We're just having a hard time getting runners in," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a tough go but you have to be big boys and come out here and put your big boy pants on and keep fighting. That's all you can do."

Jayson Werth had two hits for the Nationals to extend his on-base streak to 32 games, tied with Boston's Dustin Pedroia for the longest active streak in the majors, and Ben Revere hit a tiebreaking single in the fifth.

Daniel Murphy added an RBI triple while Wilson Ramos doubled and scored to help the Nationals win their second straight in this four-game series between division leaders.

All of Washington's runs came off Giants starter Jeff Samardzija (9-7).

FAN CHARGES FIELD

The game was interrupted in the top of the seventh inning when a fan ran onto the field. The man avoided security guards for a few moments then dropped to one knee near Giants SS Crawford before being tackled and escorted away.

TRAINER' S ROOM

Nationals: Backup C Jose Lobaton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow tendinitis. The move is retroactive to July 20. ... Pedro Severino was called up from Triple-A Syracuse.

Giants: Nunez, obtained a day earlier in a trade from Minnesota, was added to the 25-man roster and was in uniform. To make room, OF Jarrett Parker was optioned down to Triple-A Sacramento. ... 3B Matt Duffy (left Achilles strain) took infield and ran the bases before the game in anticipation of beginning a rehab assignment.

UP NEXT

Nationals: RHP Reynaldo Lopez (0-1) will be called up from Syracuse to face San Francisco on Saturday. Lopez lost in his major league debut against the Dodgers on July 19.

Giants: RHP Jake Peavy (5-9) will make his 14th career start against the Nationals franchise. Peavy's first came during his rookie season of 2002 against the then-Montreal Expos.

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Turner and Zimmerman sit as Scherzer, Nats play at Giants

Turner and Zimmerman sit as Scherzer, Nats play at Giants

Nationals (60-42) vs. Giants (59-43) at AT&T Park

The Nationals hung on two beat the Giants in the opener on Thursday night despite a finish that was anything but smooth. On Friday, they will look to win their third straight game overall with Max Scherzer (10-6, 2.92) on the mound.

Scherzer has been brilliant as of late with just four earned runs allowed across his last five starts (34.1 IP). He struck out 10 in seven innings against the Padres his last time out.

Behind Scherzer will be a new-look lineup with Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa all getting the day off. Ben Revere is in center, Clint Robinson is at first base and Wilmer Difo is in at shortstop.

They will face Jeff Samardzija (9-6, 4.22), who has allowed at least four earned runs in five of his last six starts and in seven of his last 10.

First pitch: 10:15 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats -Max Scherzer vs. Giants - Jeff Samardzija

NATS

CF Ben Revere
RF Bryce Harper
2B Daniel Murphy
C Wilson Ramos
LF Jayson Werth
1B Clint Robinson
3B Anthony Rendon
SS Wilmer Difo
RHP Max Scherzer

GIANTS

CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford
1B Brandon Belt
3B Connor Gillaspie
RF Gregor Blanco
C Trevor Brown
RHP Jeff Samardzija